Vees Katunar nets scholarship

Chad Katunar’s no-quit attitude has paid dividends.

Penticton Vees goalie Chad Katunar

Penticton Vees goalie Chad Katunar

Chad Katunar’s no-quit attitude has paid dividends.

Next fall the Victoria native intends to be the last line of defence for the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team. At the same time, he will hit the books hard to earn a solid education in South Bend, Indiana.

With five to 10 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I teams knocking on his door, the Fighting Irish won over Katunar.

The Penticton Vees No.1 stopper agreed to the scholarship before stopping 41 of 44 shots against the Powell River Kings and Prince George Spruce Kings last weekend. After watching their championship banners go up on Saturday in the South Okanagan Events Centre, Katunar earned his second shutout in a 4-0 win against Powell River then edged the Spruce Kings 4-3 on Sunday.

During the BCHL Showcase, Fighting Irish coach Jeff Jackson expressed his interest to Katunar. When Katunar begins his college career, he will join former teammates Mario Lucia and Steven Fogarty, which excites him.

The Fighting Irish are playing their final season in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association before moving to Hockey East in 2013-14. According to information provided by the Vees, the Irish made their first NCAA tournament appearance in 2004 and have since made four more appearances, including the Frozen Four final in 2008. Notre Dame has won two CCHA Regular Season titles (2006-07, 2008-09) and two CCHA conference Championships (2006-07, 2008-09).

Earning the scholarship is rewarding for Katunar who went from being a backup that endured struggles last season, to being the man in the playoffs when No. 1 goalie Michael Garteig was injured. Katunar helped carry his team all the way to the Doyle Cup.

“That was definitely the experience that shaped me into a starting goaltender that I feel I am today,” said Katunar. “It’s never easy to be a backup goaltender. It is a difficult job. I got a chance to prove myself and when I had to, I stopped the puck. That gave me a lot of confidence coming into this season.”

“He’s worked extremely hard,” said Stecher, adding that while the goalie may not wear a letter on his jersey, he is a leader for this year’s group. “This year, a bunch of people were questioning him.  No one in this organization questioned him. He just proved with his numbers.”

Stecher already sees a difference in Katunar from last season.

“He’s all business. He lives and dies by that slogan,” said Stecher. “He likes to have fun but knows when to be serious.”

Last season, Katunar appeared in 20 games compiling a 13-2 record with one shutout. In 15 playoff games, he went 12-2-0-1, with a goals-against average of 1.73 and a .938 save-percentage and one shutout.

Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said Katunar’s scholarship was well earned.

“Chad competes extremely hard day in and day out,” said Harbinson in a release. “He showed great patience throughout last season and excelled when called upon.  Chad has now solidified himself as one of the top goaltenders in junior A hockey.”

Ice chips: The Vees have the youngest roster in the BCHL with their average age being 18.05-years-old, according to The next youngest team is the Cowichan Valley Capitals at 18.14 years. The Vees lead the Interior Division with 14 points, while Coquitlam leads the Mainland Division with 12 points and Victoria leads the Island Division with 11 points. The attendance for the Vees opening game was 2,148. Last year 1,552 attended the Vees first home game. The second game this season attracted 1,202, while last year 1,438 fans push through the turnstiles.